Oprah Winfrey

oprah winfrey

“My first day in Chicago, September 4, 1983. I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here.” -Oprah Winfrey

Oprah’s website sells self-branded luggage, dog leashes, and an abundance of other items. Not shocking, right? Well it may surprise you that as a girl she wore clothing made from potato sacks.

Chicago’s media legend wasn’t always worth over $1 billion. Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in a poor sector of Mississippi to unwed teenage parents. She lived with her grandmother, wore potato sack overalls, and owned a doll made from a corncob that she would mock-interview.

At age 13 she moved to inner-city Milwaukee, Wisc. with her mother, where she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of other family members. She ran away, but eventually relocated to Nashville, Tenn., to live with her father. He was exceptionally strict about her schoolwork, and it was here that Oprah’s life began to turn around.

Her broadcasting career began when she was first hired by Nashville radio station WVOL, then later local WTVF-TV as a television reporter/anchor. Oprah attended Tennessee State University, and held several other news reporter jobs before becoming the new host of ABC-7’s sluggish “AM Chicago” talk show.

She gained popularity and the newly successful show was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” one year later in 1985. At this time she also enjoyed an Oscar nomination for her acting role in “The Color Purple.” Her television program show became the number one talk show in the nation, and Oprah never looked back.

She went on to create Harpo Productions, O Magazine, and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Forbes named Oprah as one of their top celebrities and wealthiest people.

And as Oprah’s show continues to reign supreme she still tapes episodes right here in Chicago’s West Loop. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is slated to end in 2011, but even before that announcement came tickets were hard to secure. The show uses a competitive lottery system, and a person may only attend one taping per season. That’s a long way from interviewing corncobs.

Jamie Hansen

About Jamie Hansen

I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. And I still love reading newspapers. After growing up in the suburbs I took a four-year Chicago hiatus to the University of Iowa where I majored in journalism and English. Now I’m back and ready to help you make the most of the Windy City. As Kanye says, I’m a Chicagoan until Chicago ends… but I wouldn’t mind a vacation home in Florida.

One Comment

  • David Frankel McLean David Frankel McLean
    May 11, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    I have a theory that Gayle King is in fact a genetically modified clone of Oprah that was created to assist in running the Oprah empire. Oprah “Gail” Winfrey? “Gayle” King? Coincidence? I think not.

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